I am grateful for your thoughtful and careful editorial, “The ‘comfort women’ agreement,” in the Jan. 1 edition.

As a German citizen living in South Korea and always happy to visit your friendly country, I feel pain in my heart over the historically rooted distrust between Japan and South Korea. To make any future apology more acceptable to Korean and other Asian victims, it will be crucial for Japanese society to understand the problems with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s tone, style and gestures.

No apology for grave misdeeds can insist on being “final and sufficient.” A sincere apology means having to live with a red face at least for some time. Abe is explicitly focused on his purpose to save Japan’s present and future generations from the burden of guilt and shame.

But please do not in any way confuse having to apologize on a national level with being a victim! National identity, in my case as a German, does not mean having to feel like a more evil sinner individually, but it will include some element of shame, I would say for a thousand years. In the case of Japan, I would humbly estimate a hundred, counting from the day of the first credible and responsible national apology.

Forgiveness can’t be demanded, not even expected. We can only hope that fingers will point at our red faces less penetratingly over time — and should then be grateful for it.

And still I hope there will be reconciliation between South Korea and Japan, those two great countries representing the endangered principles of freedom and democracy in Asia.

Michael Bergmann

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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